Making the Case for Solo Runs

Sarah Rose

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
Photo byPhoto By Author

The first time I climbed a mountain, I had only been a resident of California for a few weeks. I went with my ex-boyfriend, our flatlander quads burning as we strained our way up 4,000 feet. The peak was hard-earned and glorious. The next day, our legs ached and we marveled at how the mountain challenged us in a new way. We were both former Division 1 runners; we knew pain, we just weren't yet familiar with mountain pain.

Over a year later, I started trail running, slowly and cautiously exploring the mountain ranges in Southern California. I got lost too many times to count, underestimated how much food or water I would need, over-dressed and under-dressed, and eventually found myself a running partner, who I ran with every weekend. We pushed each other, encouraged each other, and picked each other up. Having a good friend to share mountain miles with made remote landscapes less daunting.

As time went by, I grew more adept at running down technical trails. I started falling less and noticed my quads grow thicker and hard with muscle. When that friend moved out of state, I started running more on my own. I missed our constant stream of chatter and the companionship we'd found. I missed knowing he'd be at the trailhead waiting for me to arrive, and I missed our belly laughs. But having to run by myself helped me become even more accountable. Nobody would be waiting for me at the trailhead. Nobody would be there to distract me from my own mind. Nobody would be there to pick me up when I fell, and I have fallen many, many times. Doing hard things matters, and sometimes, doing hard things alone matters, too.

Last Saturday, I went to Mount Wilson to do a 20 mile training run. I went by myself, not because I don't know anyone to run with, but because I needed to run alone. I didn't want to keep up a conversation. I didn't even want to listen to anything. I left my headphones in my car and started climbing.

There were a lot of people out, because it was a beautiful Saturday morning and beautiful Saturday mornings should not be wasted. The higher I climbed, the fewer people I saw. "Great job!" one couple shouted as I ran past. Another woman, who was hiking with two men, moved to the side of a smooth section of trail and called out, "Be careful!" I wasn't sure if she meant be careful of my footing, or be careful of the heat, or be careful of running up a mountain alone, as a solitary woman who could have been doing anything at all on a Saturday morning but who was, for some reason, scaling the side of a mountain (twice).

Be careful, I thought to myself. Of what? I'm not usually uneasy on mountains, especially a mountain like Mount Wilson, which I've climbed dozens of times. I've seen bears and rattlesnakes and although I've never seen a mountain lion, I'm sure a mountain lion has seen me. I'm more scared of other people than I am of animals, but I've learned that there are fewer sketchy people on a mountain simply because it's more difficult to be on a mountain than it is to be a street corner. In my many years of running, I've been followed by cars, been catcalled dozens of times, and harassed/stalked online. There are so many things a woman ought to be careful of, most of which aren't on a mountain. You be careful, too, I wanted to say, but I was already long past her.

Later, on an especially steep section of the trail, I caught a group of three women hiking. "Are you even tired?!" one of them asked me. "Of course," I said, "you all are doing great." Another one said, "I'm so jealous of your legs, you're so strong." She was not the first person ever to comment on my body on a mountain, but her comment felt especially well timed. I'd been feeling extra self-conscious of my legs lately, because I've been revitalizing my wardrobe and my legs don't nicely fit into normal jeans. My calves are big, my quads bulky, and my hip to waist ratio exaggerated at best. If jeans fit my thighs, they never fit my waist and vice versa. One random woman on the mountain flipped a switch in my brain. I'd been thinking about my legs all wrong; they weren't too big, they were strong. I climbed 7,000 feet without blinking. I was powerful.

Maybe that switch wouldn't have flipped if I'd been with someone, or if I'd had voices in my ears. There is nothing wrong with listening to audiobooks or podcasts or music during a run. Most days, I shove earbuds in and let someone else's voice entertain me or teach me something. But running alone, without any distractions, gives me time to think, time to be contemplative, time for my brain and body to work in sync. It's difficult to find quiet time, and even more difficult to let my mind truly wander.

I had an entire conversation with myself on Saturday as I climbed the mountain the first time. I thought about how I've yet to figure out how to reconcile two parts of myself; the part of me that is homesick for my family in Wisconsin and the part of me that feels blissfully at home here, high in the mountains where the air is crisp and clean and where I've learned, truly, how much strength is required to love oneself. Being at home in two different places means that, no matter where I am, I'll always feel a little homesick.

I thought about my art and words, and how difficult it is to make art with words. How words are all we have, and also, sometimes, not enough. Part of me is jealous of painters and sculptors, who don't need words to express themselves and whose lives are not dedicated to arguing with themselves on a page. I thought about a poem I recently wrote called Rain, and repeated it over half a dozen times looking for ways to make it tighter, more punchy, more cutting, more clean.

I thought about so many things that five and a half hours went by quickly. I felt strong and comfortable all morning, easily climbing a mountain that had intimidated me only a few years ago. Most of the time, growth is like that; you don't even notice it happening until you take a moment to look backward and see how far you've come.

P.S. Find a new place to run in Southern California here, read about some benefits of doing things alone here, or read up on some mountain running tips here.


Sarah Rose

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

Blogger | Poet | Freelancer | Ultra Runner Blog: The Prosiest IG: @mcmountain Email:

Dana Point, CA

More from Sarah Rose

Keeping The Promises You Make to Yourself

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.] “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes Today I'm writing about confidence, the polar opposite of desperation and wise older sibling to cockiness. If you close your eyes right now, I'm sure you can picture someone you know who is cocky and doesn't that just irk you? Confidence is something to be earned while cockiness is a symptom. One is showy, the other is self-assured. One is overstated and inauthentic and the other is poised. I believe that the best way to increase confidence is to consistently keep the promises you make to yourself. You can't grow self-assured about anything until you have proven your own competency to yourself, and you can't grow competent until you show up. I've known many people who make promises they never keep. Whether it's a friend making a plan they never intend to follow through on, a business not returning your phone call, or a workplace not fulfilling their end of a compensation plan, we all know what it's like to encounter flakey, inconsistent people. You probably don't like or respect them very much, right? It's hard to trust someone who doesn't show that they're trustworthy, which is why confidence comes from trusting yourself. When I was in school, I got straight A's, and not because I was that smart. I studied hard and told myself that I would do the absolute best that I could. Once I understood that I could achieve straight A's, that was the standard I held myself to. Once I knew what I was capable of, anything less was unacceptable. It's important to point out that nobody else would have been disappointed with a B. Nobody can ever be as disappointed with me as I can be because nobody else cares as much. If you let other people dictate what success means, you'll always end up disappointed. When I'm training for a race (my next race is the Kodiak 100, in Big Bear, CA), I have to put in a lot of miles and a fair amount of time in the gym. Some mornings, the last thing I want to do is wake up and go for a run, and hit the snooze button more than once. Some days, I don't feel the least bit inspired to train, but I do anyway. I don't know much but I do know that putting in consistent work is one of the best ways to see positive results. You'll beat out many people simply by not quitting, by paying attention, and adjusting when things don't quite work. The worst thing you can do though, is bite off more than you can chew. Start with something small, even if it's setting an alarm earlier than you're used to (and not hitting snooze). Your promise to yourself could be as small as making your bed every morning to something as large as reaching out to five new people every day to build a business. Stephanie Barros from Igniting Your Spark outlines the following ways to keep the promises you make to you: 1. Make reasonable promises to yourself. If you've fallen short of a particular goal in the past, adjust it to make it more manageable, then build from there. 2. Put your promises on paper. Thoughts aren't solid, and they're easier to ignore than something you've written down and look at every day. Nothing is as solid as words on a page. 3. Do you mean it? The reason many promises fall through is that we never meant them in the first place. I personally don't see the point in making a promise you don't intend to keep, so be brutally honest with yourself about whether or not you plan to even try to keep them. 4. Change how you think about you. It seems universally true that we're nicer to others than we are to ourselves, and we're more afraid to let others down than we are to let ourselves down. It should be just as unacceptable to let yourself down as it is to let down other people. 5. Accept discomfort. Change is uncomfortable, no matter how big or small, and keeping the promises you make to yourself might seem uncomfortable, too. Nobody ever succeeded by sitting quietly in their comfort, after all. "A dream is a vision, a goal is a promise. You can keep your promises to yourself by remaining flexible, focused, and committed." `~ Denis Waitley xoxo Sarah Rose.

Read full story

Comments / 0